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Island Stories

2. Local History

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2. Local History

Local history may be defined simply as historical writing about a specific district, up to and including a province. It overlaps with family history, which, in the interwar period, related lives and achievements to the 'progress' of particular districts. The interwar period was an important phase in the establishment of networks of local historians, and a time when substantially more local history was published than previously. An examination of T. M. Hocken's A Bibliography of the Literature Relating to New Zealand from 1880 to its terminal date of 1909 reveals few works of local history until the 1890s. Travel literature and speculations about Maori were much more common. Many of the 1890s histories were offshoots of provincial jubilees, especially Otago's.1 Otago's jubilee provided the impetus for the formation of an early settlers' association, initially affiliated to the New Zealand Natives Association.2 In the early decades of the twentieth century, more and more small towns passed their fiftieth anniversaries. Such milestones made it feasible to form societies as well as to publish one-off jubilee volumes, and there was a large upsurge in the number of societies formed and the number of books and booklets published. Local historical and early settlers' societies were central to local histories, partly because the presentation of historical papers could be a social activity, and partly because local histories involved local social obligations. While not all such histories were published to coincide with anniversaries, the majority of them served similar commemorative ends.

This chapter examines some of the recurrent characteristics of local history in this period. Most of these characteristics were clustered around the ideal of 'pioneering'. Local history came in a variety of forms, and a single chapter on such a vast body of material tends to homogenise the texts it discusses. One can compensate for this by discussing individual texts in detail, and at the end of this chapter I will do so. At the outset, however, it is worthwhile to indicate some of the page 19different forms of writing under discussion, and the different fora in which they were written.

A lot of local history came in small units. Lectures, published lectures, short anthologies and newspaper articles were important genres. Much work in these formats was at least partly autobiographical, with the author as a witness to the scenes and events described, if not a prominent participant.3 Lectures and pamphlets were usually single-author works; miscellanies tended to be collaborative. While shorter works of local history could be strong on plot and anecdote, they did not have to be: listing habitual activities and pointing out whose shop used to be on which corner were themselves valid exercises.

Book-length works of local history fall into a number of categories. One is the family biography, hardly any of which were critical of the relatives from whom the authors derived much of their prestige.4 These family biographies epitomised the practice of biography in New Zealand generally. The few biographies written by people other than the subject's relatives had this filial piety thrust upon them: their work depended on the blessing of and sources supplied by the family.5 Another genre was the compendium of portraits. Robert Valpy Fulton's Medical Practice in Otago and Southland was a series of articles on individual doctors, its whole equal to the sum of its parts.6 Other collections, such as Robert Gilkison's Early Days in Central Otago, gathered together anecdotes rather than miniature biographies.7 Other books that did not define themselves as miscellanies of anecdotes cannot easily be distinguished from books that did.

The disjointed character of many works of local history may owe something to the circumstances of their publication. A number of books, including Fulton's, began their lives as series of newspaper articles.8 Again, there is a parallel with Cowan, though Cowan exploited the practice of newspaper history to the point where he could support himself by such work. Sympathetic newspaper editors and page 20proprietors, such as Henry Brett of the Auckland Star, fostered the publication of history in their newspapers and, in some cases, in book-form through sibling companies.9

Historical societies were the other main outlet for local history. Some societies published history, and others at least heard papers on historical subjects. The Wellington Early Settlers' and Historical Association took its scholarly function seriously, attempting to gather information, photographs and pictures, and to elicit memoirs and other papers. Or rather, some of its members did. Others were more interested in social gatherings. When the association was resurrected at the end of World War I, it was noted: 'Whilst the social side of our work has been so successfull [sic], the Historical part has to a great extent been neglected.'10 The problem remained, and the Association's journal lapsed in 1923.11 The Gore and Surrounding Districts' Early Settlers' Association was likewise pulled in different directions.12 Other societies appear to have made fewer attempts to be scholarly fora, though they built up museums and portrait collections.

In addition to these restrictions, early settlers' associations were exclusive. To be eligible to join, members usually had to have spent a minimum of thirty years in the district (sometimes as many as fifty), or be descended from such residents. There were alternatives. 'Locals' of some religious communities, particularly the Methodist Church, were served by religious historical societies.13 In addition, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin had general historical societies, some of which were under the auspices of the New Zealand Historical Association or Society (both terms were used, apparently for the same body), which seems to have been a group of societies that were, in practice, autonomous.14 In the 'branches' of this association, local historians mixed with academics and other noted historians, such as William Downie Stewart and T. Lindsay Buick. In Dunedin, Auckland and Christchurch, at least, the local professors of history were prominent members.15

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When each province began work on a history for the New Zealand Centennial, academics and local historians mixed on numerous committees.

In these historical societies, academics and historians such as Buick addressed national themes, but others kept to local subjects. There were exceptions, of course. A. B. Chappell was a stalwart of both the Auckland Historical Society and the Wesley Historical Society (as well as a New Zealand Herald subeditor, sometime university registrar, and an ordained minister who had been 'left without pastoral charge' since 1919 'because of a "disciplinary matter"').16 He reached beyond his interests in the histories of Auckland and Methodism to pursue a fascination with the Bay of Islands in the pre-1840 period.17 He expended considerable energy in rescuing James Busby's reputation.18 In the mid-1930s he became convinced that Kororareka had never been the capital of New Zealand, and also wrote on the more abstract question of the significance of capitals.19

Most members of local historical societies and early settlers' associations had fewer pretensions than Chappell. Or rather, their pretensions and their intended audiences were more local. National issues were seldom strongly integrated into their district histories. Local histories were animated by particularised local 'interests', in both senses of this word. All the local historians discussed in this chapter were residents or former residents of the districts they wrote about, and their works commemorated settler achievements.

One thing local histories did share with histories of broader scope, and with ethnology, was a commitment to collection, the accumulation of narratives and artefacts before their keepers died and their cultural possessions vanished with them. Local historians employed the same language of disappearing knowledge as the Polynesian Society did; 'early settlers' as well as 'the old-time Maori' were dying off.20 It was important to 'preserve some of the early history of the district … before page 22it is too late'.21 Local societies collected portraits and pioneer implements, and stressed the urgency of collecting manuscripts and recording narratives and reminiscences.22 The delivery and publication of lectures 'plac[ed] on record what were considered to be important items relating to the history of the district.'23 Local historians were not always uncritical of nostalgic memories, but unlike some historians discussed in this thesis they treated memories as a key unit of evidence.

Collection was not only a preparatory step in the writing of local history; many works of local history textually re-enacted the process of collecting. Acland's The Early Canterbury Runs (1930) is a striking example. Based on more than thirty years of interviews, the book was a compendium of facts on nineteenth-century sheep-runs. It was divided into geographical categories and each run was accorded about a page. No scrap of information was wasted and there was hardly any narrative structure to the whole or even to the individual entries. Acland's project had no need for closure and narrative structure. He treated the book as perennially provisional, a published work-in-progress, bringing out expanded editions in 1940 and 1946.

Even those local histories that were not outright compendia like The Early Canterbury Runs paralleled collecting practices. Histories were often like family albums, both in the heterogeneity of their information and in their personal investments. Authors often prefaced their works with disclaimers of 'literary skill': they were simply 'transcribing' or 'compiling'.24 Local histories quoted in bulk, so as not to disturb the integrity of a source. They did not quote for short illustration, but reproduced paragraphs or multiple pages of source material, usually contemporary testimonies, interviewees' accounts, or recollections published in newspapers. Rather than creating a synthetic narrative with a strong authorial voice, these histories tended to keep the source intact, sometimes reducing the author's textual persona to the function of a plaque on a display-cabinet. Exceptions to this pattern (such as Gilkison's Early Days in Central Otago) were rare.

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The practice of bulk quotation and preserving the integrity of the source material abetted one of the central purposes of local histories: to 'praise famous men and the fathers that begat us', as the biblical epigraph to one book put it.25 It mattered not only to speak well of them, but also to let them have their own say. A related practice was that of acknowledging the achievements of as many people as was humanly possible. Rolls of early settlers were compiled for anniversaries,26 but the habit of naming en masse pervaded other texts because most local histories were commemorations whether they coincided with a jubilee or not. Gibbons has written that local histories at this time tended to contain 'about as many names as the district's telephone directory'.27 A quotation from the paper that Albert N. Burrows read at the Gore and Surrounding Districts' Early Settlers' Association annual reunion in August 1929 should show that this comment is not as hyperbolic as it may seem:

There were three bakers and three butchers in Gore and one in East Gore—the same number of bakers as there is to-day. It appears the people's diet consisted principally of bread and meat. Only six of the original shops remain, now occupied by Messrs Daly and Leishman, McCutcheon, Boyne Bros. and Miss Johnston, Crawford and Grant, and Messrs Thomson and Beattie; and only eight people remain on the sections they occupied then—viz.: Mrs Baldwin, Mrs Geo. Low, Mrs Wilson, Mr Jas. Beattie (The Hill), Mr J. Maude, Mrs Geisig, Miss A. Ross, and Mrs Thos. Green. Football was played on the land occupied by Messrs R. and F. Wallis' stores near the brewery. The Gore Volunteers and Gore Fire Brigade were formed about this time, and shortly afterwards asphalt was laid down on the Main Street.

From the next paragraph, the remaining four pages of Burrows' 'paper' consisted of a list of names organised by area and street.28

Not all works of local history were as folkish as Burrows'. Others were closely tied to institutions and hierarchies. As is suggested by their profusion of names and their valuing of reminiscence and interviews, local histories placed a premium on individual persons. 'History', wrote one author, 'consists of the story of lives of men.'29 But in many cases, the textual versions of those individuals were stereotypes, and most of these people were important because of their institutional positions and their places in community hierarchies. An individual's importance lay page 24in his (and occasionally her) having been the first practitioner of a particular trade in the district, the first mayor and so on. Even John Barr's history of Auckland, commissioned by the city council, was less concerned with the workings of institutions than with listing the people who occupied positions within them.30

Local histories reiterated institutional hierarchies because they were narratives of 'public' activities, and binding those public activities together was the process of colonisation. These works recounted the building of prosperous and upstanding communities out of a 'wilderness'. The facts accumulated in compendious works were direct or indirect indices of this progress. 'Local histories', Gibbons has written, 'are … colonizing texts in a very direct sense, since they justify the European appropriation of the land.'31 Local histories were a narrative analogue of the 'waste lands' legal doctrine. Often, this 'waste lands' attitude was implicit: where conflict with Maori was not discussed in detail, the indigenous inhabitants of a district were relegated to the preface of a narrative, or to the roles of helpers or hazards ('Maori scares' were stock events in local histories).32 The privileging of settlement as the defining characteristic of a district's history made Maori significant only insofar as they contributed to or impeded settlement.

Works of local history had 'colonising' dimensions other than justifying the appropriation of land by claiming that only Pakeha had made it fruitful. These histories also arrogated to Pakeha the vocabulary of origins. Colonists became 'early settlers', 'old identities', passengers on the 'first ships'. Through their association with and work on the land they 'belonged' to a district. Though less self-aware than those who 'played a good deal with words like "indigenous"', local historians performed similar operations on a local scale.33 One's role in the colonisation of a district affected one's status within hierarchies of local Pakeha.

Other kinds of colonising text, such as ethnologies, focused on Maori. But ethnology and local history were seldom combined in the same text. There were exceptions, such as T. W. Downes' Old Whanganui, and the activities of Jim Fleming of the Native School at Tongariro National Park, who attempted to assemble history books for his students based on Cowan's New Zealand Wars and Fleming's own 'interesting talks with local Maori elders'.34 In most local histories, though, Maori play minor roles in European dramas. The main roles were those of the 'pioneers'.

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The pioneer images in local histories may be traced to nineteenth-century immigration propaganda and its idealisation of work and 'vigour'.35 Respectable pioneers (as opposed to, say, the drifters of the Bulletin) had long been stock characters in New Zealand fiction.36 Their most obvious trait was the way they toiled in a fashion that approached heroism. Local histories emphasised pioneers' courage by paying close attention to the hardships overcome. The physical conditions in which pioneers laboured were described in thick material detail, a practice both paralleled and enabled by the collection of pioneer artefacts. The ingenuity of their responses to difficult situations was described likewise: 'Saddles and bridles were even scarcer than horses, but the resourceful pioneer frequently made a satisfactory substitute for bridles from the fibrous leaves of the wild flax and rode bareback.'37

Resourcefulness was one of the principal attributes of the pioneer woman, along with courage and determination. Pioneer women also brought domestic warmth and moral hygiene to the frontier, keeping male settlers civilised as they went about transforming the 'wilderness'. Occasionally pioneer women were placed in the foreground,38 but more often, in the work of female historians as well as male, they were praised while remaining on the sideline of the narrative. Thus Fulton wrote in Medical Practice in Otago and Southland: 'If one reads between the lines of my story, one can easily see the heroic figure made by the women who shared the trials and hardships of their husbands'.39 Fulton's comment and the place of women in his book exemplified the role of pioneer women in many local histories. Like the men they were tested, and they often had to perform traditionally masculine actions, such as horse-riding.40 But the women remained something apart from the men, always different, sometimes marginal.

Pioneer women stayed feminine; pioneer men were not debased by unpleasant conditions. But the pioneers' heroic status depended on more than integrity and hard work. The pioneer myth assumed that pioneering was, among other things, a public service deliberately rendered. Local histories were built on the premise that page 26the fruits of 'civilisation' were conscious gifts by the pioneers, not mere by-products of efforts expended solely for their own or their children's gain. In some cases, of course, this was a reasonable conclusion to draw, but pioneer histories seldom exhibited signs of reasoning toward this conclusion. It was assumed as a given.

Seeing pioneers as public-minded accorded with the personal characteristics associated with them. Local histories did depict some of the private traits of pioneers, but these were traits, such as honour and generosity, that would not be embarrassing if disclosed in public (as, in texts, they were). Personal failings and private hostilities were elided. Henry Brett and Henry Hook wrote that their book on the Albertland settlement in the Kaipara left out 'the faults and frictions of Albertland life, which are common to human nature and every community.'41 The troubles to be remembered were troubles external to the pioneers, obstacles that were surmounted. There was no room for blame of the pioneers.

This was history without guilt or rancour, but not without responsibility. One of the most persistent rhetorical figures of local histories in the interwar period was the exhortation to honour the memory of a district's pioneers.42 The 'duty of remembrance' had two components: the striving to remember and the striving to make the memory a model of one's life.43 It was commonplace to say that a book was written, or a museum collection assembled, in order that present-day Pakeha might comprehend the hardships the pioneers faced.44 These travails appreciated, Pakeha might 'leaen to meet the trials of modern times with the same spirit which animated these pioneer settlers'.45 The more cautious (or stern) expressed this as a hope; others, such as Gilkison, declared that the pioneer spirit did indeed live on. Like many non-historians, Gilkison linked pioneering and soldiering: 'Without exception the sons of the old pioneers throughout Otago went forward at the call [in World War I]… hundreds of brave men went forth in the spirit that led their fathers … "so live the fathers in the sons".'46

The responsibility of (selective) memory and the specifics of the pioneer myth meant that local history was not a mere diversion without public significance. It page 27inscribed the 'colonial helpmeet' as a feminine ideal and glorified a devoted work ethic.47 The pioneer legend was, of course, widespread in Pakeha culture. Sometimes it was unhitched from 'early settlers' and attached to a general colonial spirit which was supposed to exist in the offspring of more recent immigrants as well. The extent to which local historians were responsible for the currency of pioneer stereotypes in Pakeha culture is a difficult question. Local historical societies were not mass movements, and early settlers' associations were inherently restrictive in their membership. Moreover, exclusivity did not necessarily mean devotion. Wellington's association could not inspire enough of its 368 members to contribute to or even buy copies of its journal, which ceased publication after four issues, even though the Association itself had been going since before World War I.48 To this objection one may reply that local historians' sketches were published in mainstream newspapers as well as in obscure bulletins. And the extent of the dissemination of ideas and vocabularies is not a linear function of the size of their immediate audience. Local histories may be seen as significant if not overwhelming disseminators and guardians of the pioneer legend.

Their most direct ideological impact, however, may have been as local as their specific contents. Local histories implied that the well established pioneer families of a district owed their position to merit and the heroic efforts which made twentieth-century comfort possible. As a hegemonic image, the pioneer myth was subject to repeated appropriation and contestation. To illustrate the political import local histories could have, and to give some idea of the variations from the generalised account of the pioneer legend I have given so far, I will now discuss the career of the pioneer legend in Otago's local histories during the interwar period.

Otago is not a typical case but an extreme one. The idea of the 'first settlers' of 1848 remained of political importance for a long time. Otago also had one of the largest bodies of local historical literature. Writing on local history in substantial quantities began earlier in Otago than elsewhere, partly on the backs of commemorative church histories. Erik Olssen suggests that in the interwar period, the 'vitality of Otago's historical tradition' was related to an awareness of Otago's decline—its golden age was in the past, not the present or the future.49

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The pioneer legend had different emphases in different regions, and in Otago it was unsurprisingly coloured by Presbyterian values.50 The principal bearers of the pioneer mantle were the Free Church settlers of the late 1840s and the 1850s. Their descendants vigilantly maintained that these were the true and only pioneers of Otago. This claim, however, was open to challenge on behalf of earlier whalers and later gold-miners. In 1931 the centennial of the Otakou whaling station was celebrated and a commemorative plaque unveiled by the Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe.51 The event provoked 'much controversy'.52 'There was a disposition on the part of people brought up on the legend of 1848 to dispute the historical importance of anything that had happened before that year, and to resent the celebration as an attempt to usurp the honour due to the founders of the Otago settlement.'53 The Early Settlers' Association retaliated the following year with a footpath tablet commemorating the spot where 'the pioneer settlers landed from a boat off the "John Wickliffe" on the 23rd day of March, 1848, to found this City and Province'.54

The commemoration of the whalers challenged the status of the Presbyterians as pioneers in the sense of first European arrivals. Gold-rush immigrants and their sympathisers could challenge their status in a different way, by borrowing other elements of pioneer rhetoric. The descendants of the Free Church settlers preserved their parents' hostility to the gold-rush immigrants, and did not incorporate them into the pioneer legend. At first the Otago Early Settlers' Association excluded all those who had arrived after 1861, 'this being regarded as the commencement of a second and very distinct era of settlement, when the new arrivals were certainly not all pious Presbyterians'.55 This restriction was progressively relaxed, and by 1918 an early settler was defined as any European who had arrived before 1868 (unlike other such societies, the Otago association had a large membership, growing from 2000 in 1920 to 3000 in 1938).56 Nevertheless, the gold-rush immigrants were not prominent characters in the histories produced for the association.

Other Otago histories redeemed the gold-miners. Alexander Don's history of the Presbyterian Church in Central Otago (of which Don had been a prominent page 29member) understandably emphasised the piety of a 'great many' of the miners.57 Gilkison's Early Days in Central Otago was more extravagant, applying parts of the pioneer legend to the gold-rush immigrants. Unsurprisingly, Gilkison left behind Free Church puritanism; he relished rowdy goldfields yarns, and he also wrote movingly about the dual character of the criminal Henry Garrett.58 Gilkison nevertheless saw in his men the determination, vigour and general merit typical of upstanding pioneers; goldfields conditions became 'the hardships of the pioneer life'; those miners who were married had wives who were brave, kindly and hospitable.59 Goldfields clichés and pioneer clichés coalesced in this remarkable passage: 'No other country ever received such a body of magnificent men as immigrants. All in the flower of youth … they came into Otago an army of picked men … [b]ubbling over with vigour and animal spirits and love of adventure …'60

Towards the end of the book Gilkison presented capsules of some 'typical pioneers'.61 William Jackson Barry, one of these 'form[s] of the genus Pioneer', worked in the following occupations: 'Sailor, skipper, whaler, cattleman, butcher, fisher, horse-trainer, gold digger'.62 He was as versatile as any farming pioneer, but none of his activities would have made him a pioneer by the standards of the Otago Early Settlers' Association. The same went for Gilkison's other 'typical pioneers'.

A related but much more moderate process occurred in Fulton's Medical Practice in Otago and Southland. Here the early doctors were 'pioneer doctors'. They travelled long distances in bad weather to minister to the sick; like other pioneers, they had versatile, self-sacrificing 'loving helpmeets' for wives.63 The idea of the 'pioneer doctor', however, did not originate with Fulton: some of the newspaper sources he relied on also cast the early doctors as pioneers.64 Erik Olssen writes that Fulton, a prominent member of the Otago Early Settlers' Association, 'portrayed the early doctors as heroic figures and helped to legitimise the aspirations of the medical profession for a wider leadership'.65

In Otago, then, the pioneer legend was jealously guarded by its Presbyterian custodians, challenged or appropriated by the champions of other Otago residents, and employed as the standard mode of praising a European group. Fulton and Gilkison may have been deliberate in their use of pioneer rhetoric, but even if they page 30were not, the point remains that because pioneering was such a hegemonic ideal, laudatory discussions of any kind of colonist would be likely to draw on the vocabulary and tropes that constituted the image of the pioneer. It was thus possible to speak of missionaries as 'pioneers' and, beyond the field of history-writing, to apply pioneering terminology to groups as diverse as soldiers and writers in early twentieth-century New Zealand.

This discussion of Otago's histories goes some way to balancing the general and the particular in this chapter. To finish, I will discuss in detail one exemplary text. George Rhodes of the Levels (1937) by Airini Woodhouse replicated many of the stock elements of local history I have discussed. It modified other such elements, and in some aspects it was quite different from most local histories and provides a useful contrast. More than the Otago histories, it shows that the stock devices of local history were not simply a straitjacket, but were open to change.

The Levels was the first sheep-station in South Canterbury. George Rhodes ran it, and he and his brothers were Canterbury magnates well before the founding of the Canterbury Association. Woodhouse (1896-1989) was his grand-daughter, and grew up on Blue Cliffs, one of the family's other sheep-stations. When she wrote George Rhodes of the Levels she had already written (with William Edward Bidwill) a biography of her other grandfather.66

The book's full title is worth quoting to indicate its range of subjects: George Rhodes of the Levels and His Brothers, Early Settlers of New Zealand: Particularly the Story of the Founding of the Levels, the First Sheep Station in South Canterbury. The book resists categorisation as a biography or a history of a family. It is both more and less than each of these. The opening chapters focused on William Rhodes as he established himself in New Zealand in the 1830s. With William based in Wellington from 1840 onwards, the narrative concentrated increasingly on the two Rhodes brothers, George and Robert, who lived in Canterbury and administered a number of sheep-runs owned by them and William, of which the Levels was one. Woodhouse told the Wellington historian Horace Fildes: 'I found it impossible to deal equally with all four brothers, so choose [sic] my own grandfather as the principal figure: with him R.H.R. [Robert Heaton Rhodes] was the most closely connected.'67 The brothers, however, were not the only 'family' whose history is recounted: after George married, the narrative concentrated on his new family; after his death at the age of 47, it followed his wife to her new husband, and also described Robert's last years. Much of the action happened on George's property or page 31among those he knew, but his character seldom dominated. As the book's title suggests, the stations themselves were important subjects of the book. Woodhouse also paid attention to wider developments in Canterbury, in part, no doubt, because of the power the Rhodes brothers wielded in Canterbury as a whole. The book was a history of a place as well as a history of families.

Woodhouse's main source for her book was her family's papers. She also read many newspaper reminiscences and some other historians' works, which gave her more of a national context than was usual in local histories.68 Woodhouse drew on conversations with people connected with the Levels, some of them evidently held before she began work on the book.69 She retraced some of the steps taken by her subjects on their travels,70 and drew on her personal knowledge of farming. All these allowed her to deal in the thick material detail typical of local histories. H. Guthrie-Smith told Woodhouse while she was working on the book: 'Leave out nothing, Nothing, about the lives of the pioneers.'71 The finished product was packed with detail. Two illustrations will capture the tone. 'They lived in a hut, thirty feet long and twelve wide, with walls six feet high built of totara slabs thickly lined with cob, made by mixing clay with water and chopped tussock'. 'James Thomson's wife … always had a tankard of hot beer ready for him, heated by plunging into it a red hot poker, and she remembers how the children loved to hear the sizzling noise that it made.'72

As well as evoking the texture of living conditions, the book contained a lot of detail about farm management and commerce.73 Much of this appeared in extracts from ledgers and journals. The text quoted extensively from George's journal, to 'give some idea of the station work during this period and of George's very varied activities'74; Woodhouse reproduced in their entirety a large number of letters. The quotations, however, had a different effect from the graceless assemblages of many other local histories. The narrative voice carried much of the story and was not reduced to a mere link between quotes. Ironically, the greater strength of the narrative voice lent the quoted passages more resonance.

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If George Rhodes of the Levels differed from other pioneer histories slightly but tellingly in its use of quotation, it did so too in other areas, such as its ideological dimensions. The final chapter ('Ave Atque Vale') saluted all the original station-owners, including the Rhodes brothers, and declared that on their descendants 'rests a responsibility, and they should never fail to take their share in maintaining the honour and progress of the colony founded by their forefathers, the pioneers'.75 When applied to the descendants of the wealthy, rather than rank-and-file 'old identities', the duty of memory had connotations of noblesse oblige. The wealth and standing of the Rhodes brothers set them apart from other colonists, and their descendants inherited and actively maintained their prestige. Christchurch Cathedral bore plaques to the Rhodes, its benefactors, and when Alan Mulgan told Guy Scholefield of a weekend spent at Blue Cliffs he described his hosts as 'N.Z. aristocracy—Mrs Woodhouse is a Rhodes, as you know.'76 George Rhodes of the Levels had some aristocratic pretensions, such as the coat of arms reproduced as a frontispiece, and the sequence of 'begats', dating from 1689, on the first page. Away from the beginning and the end, however, the text displayed a certain modesty. Woodhouse wrote with the dignity of the secure, or knew that the story, told the way she told it, was enough to establish the grandeur of the family.77

The text emphasises the standing and authority of the brothers rather than the rapidity of their rise. George Rhodes served time in unpleasant conditions, and a local resident 'vouched for his ability as a ploughman', but 'George did not consider that a large employer should give too much time to manual labour, and it was one of his favourite sayings that "The eye of the master is worth more than both his hands."'78 In the book, George never assumes the part of the recently wealthy man who acts as an equal of his workers. The book discloses the Rhodes family's middle-class origins,79 but praises the brothers for their colonial foundation-laying rather than their self-improvement. Woodhouse does not play up the theme of success-in-the-colonies. Instead, she attempts to establish in her characters a stable fidelity to their locale. This is evident in the extended names she gives people: 'George Rhodes of the Levels'; 'Robert Rhodes of Purau'; 'Hornbrook of Arowhenua'.80 (Two of Woodhouse's other books were called Bidwill of Pihautea and Guthrie-Smith of Tutira.)

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The process is also evident in less subtle ways: The land, then unoccupied save by Maoris and a handful of whalers, has become the home of a nation. Homesteads have been built and have disappeared, but through eighty years of changing times the little slab hut at the Levels, the oldest existing house in South Canterbury, still so full of memories of George Rhodes, the first settler, has kept its watch over the plains spreading before it.'81

George Rhodes of the Levels further implied the naturalness of the Rhodes' presence in Canterbury by its minimal treatment of any feelings of exile and imitations of English ways. The trip to England that George and his family made in 1860 was a working holiday and a joyful family reunion, but not a spiritual pilgrimage.82 There are signs, however, that George felt more of a pull to England than Woodhouse let on. One of the towns that he tried to create 'was named Epworth after his birthplace in Yorkshire'; 'the Levels' was also the name of the part of Yorkshire from which the family hailed.83 At two points in the narrative, George attempted to import English birds. Woodhouse elaborated on this more than she did on the matter of place names: 'in common with most early settlers, [he] took more interest in those he had known at Home, than in learning how to love the native species'. That some of the imported birds survived was, commented the narrator, 'unfortunate'.84 The implication was that on this point Woodhouse's own generation had gone further along the path of her friend Guthrie-Smith than the early settlers had.85 Thus, while it was important to keep alive the pioneer spirit, it was not necessary to emulate the pioneers' every habit. In a similar vein was Woodhouse's treatment of small farmers' triumph over the squatters late in the nineteenth century. '[T]he day was passing when it was right for one man to hold a huge area of good land', she commented, immediately after writing: 'One can sympathise with the squatters. With vision and courage they had come to this little-known country, taken up land barely explored, much less surveyed, made their homes in a wilderness and prepared the way for those who were to follow after.'86 Woodhouse both claimed founder status for the early runholders—'the true pioneers of the country, who had ventured into the unknown land without assistance or support from the Government or any colonizing organization'—and implied that she and their other descendants had moved with the times.87

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Woodhouse thus 'indigenised' the Rhodes through claims of origination and autochthony. The real indigenes were not prominent figures in the book. Woodhouse noted that when the brothers arrived, there were few Maori in 'South Canterbury'.88 (Woodhouse referred to the area as Canterbury even before it received that name, which was well after the Rhodes arrived there.) The brothers' leases with Ngai Tahu were not mentioned, though local Maori were described as being friendly with George and Robert Heaton Rhodes. The fact that William Barnard Rhodes fathered a child with a Maori woman was not mentioned.89

Unusually for a local history, George Rhodes of the Levels did not banish personal 'faults and frictions' from the narrative. William Rhodes 'was never a mild-tempered man', and he and his brothers had some disagreements.90 In the 1850s, 'it looked like the old agreement might be dissolved. William and Robert occasionally expressed themselves very plainly in their letters to each other, but, however strained their relations might be, they never varied their terminations, and both always remained the other's "affectionate brother," though sometimes one would not have suspected much brotherly love from the text of the letters. Robert and George, on the other hand, were always staunch friends.'91 Nevertheless, there were indications that George was not friendly with everyone. At one point Woodhouse wrote that George, 'though slow to anger, never hesitated, should occasion arise, to enforce his authority with his fists.'92 Later in the book she quoted an obituary for George in the Lyttelton Times: 'He was known as a strict and perhaps stern man of business, of the highest integrity and honour, and when occasion required, liberal and charitable to a degree scarcely appreciated by those who met him as strangers.'93 This quotation closed the chapter in which George died. It was a strangely unfulsome conclusion, especially in the light of the more adulatory eulogy of George that Woodhouse quoted at the end of the book.94

It was never suggested, however, that there was any tension in George and Elizabeth's marriage. With Elizabeth, George's kindness was 'never failing'.95 The book's descriptions of Elizabeth Rhodes and other pioneer women largely accord with Gibbons' argument about traditions of women's pioneer writing. Discussing two Centennial anthologies of pioneer women's stories (one, Tales of Pioneer Women, page 35edited by Woodhouse), Gibbons comments that their contents 'conform broadly to the "pioneer legend" established by male writers, but many of the contributors specify women's particular experiences'. A defining feature of the two collections, he comments, is that 'the detail of women's experiences is preserved: no recollection of food or technology or human incident is considered too trivial to be included'.96 Though Gibbons does not say so explicitly, this is an argument about public and private spheres: women's pioneer writing corresponded largely to men's but with more emphasis on the private. While local histories by men also placed a premium on material detail (one detailed discussion of food-preparation in George Rhodes of the Levels occurred in a quotation of a newspaper reminiscence by a male run-worker),97 writing by and about women tended to draw more attention to the textures of 'private' activities. It is hard to imagine an early settlers' association man writing as Woodhouse did about the pregnant Elizabeth Rhodes: 'On one occasion one of her breasts swelled and hardened and she did not know what to do, but a Maori again came to her aid and applied a poultice of native leaves, probably Koromiko.'98

The distinction between public and private was most pronounced in the treatment of emotions, in George Rhodes of the Levels as elsewhere. The psychological privations of pioneer life were acknowledged for women but not for men, and thus in their sternness men like George remained inscrutable to the reader. Woodhouse, however, did not detail Elizabeth's feelings through Elizabeth's own words. She never said that Elizabeth had a diary; from the letters quoted, Elizabeth would have been unlikely to complain about her loneliness to her relatives in England. Therefore, like other writers, Woodhouse described these feelings through implication, indicating the circumstances giving rise to loneliness (no neighbours for so many miles, poor roads), and speculating about the feelings caused.99 In some contrast, the death of George and Elizabeth's first son was reported very tersely.100

Woodhouse's characterisations of the 'very few white women in the district' were quite orthodox.101 In Elizabeth, George 'had a true partner, who, with wonderful adaptability and strength of purpose, cheerfully surmounted all difficulties and made a real home in that almost unpeopled region'.102 Mrs Israel Rhodes (no relation to the other Rhodes) found inner strength through pioneering. Initially 'delicate' and fearful, she found that '[t]he simple, healthy life agreed with her so well that she became a strong woman and reared a large family'. On some page 36days she would milk the cows, make butter, walk eight miles on a rough track to sell it, buy supplies and carry them home, and then milk the cows again before going to bed. 'They had gallant, stout hearts, these pioneer wives and mothers.'103 Mrs Hornbrook and Miss Collier were similarly 'intrepid'.104

At one point Woodhouse noted the unsuitability of nineteenth-century women's dress on the frontier. The women, she said, 'must have looked enviously at the men in their loose red or blue flannel shirts, moleskin trousers, Wellington boots and shady cabbage-tree hats'.105 But any transgression by the pioneer women remained inchoate. This can be seen as a metaphor for Woodhouse's treatment of pioneer women: they expanded the private sphere without puncturing it.

George Rhodes of the Levels itself had a roughly analogous relationship with the orthodoxies of local history generally. In its treatment of pioneer women and its use of detail, it was fairly typical; in its quotations and its discussion of 'faults and frictions' it departed from the mainstream of local and family history while remaining substantially within the genre. Pervading Woodhouse's book and local history generally was the idea of colonisation, conceived in 'public' economic terms. The centrality of breaking in the land and building settlements wrote Maori out of the narrative except insofar as they contributed to or retarded this process, and performed a similar operation on pioneer women and on the emotional lives of pioneers generally. The selection of people and activities whose memory it championed was a function of the primary concept of colonisation.

Local histories thus did more than describe colonising activities. They dealt with Pakeha in terms of their contribution to the public business of settlement, and they re-enacted colonisation textually by defining a district's history as the history of Pakeha endeavour in that area. They were clustered around the second of Terry Goldie's poles of indigenisation: 'This country really began with the arrival of the whites'.106 Local histories were one kind of response to the 'problems of the imagination' associated with colonist culture. Other responses to these problems eschewed the pioneer legend but preserved its conflation of 'Pakeha' with 'New Zealand'. Still other responses transformed the pioneer tradition by critique or by combination with different traditions. One such response was Guthrie-Smith's Tutira. Another was the work of James Cowan. His writings are the subject of the next chapter.

1 T. M. Hocken, A Bibliography of the Literature Relating to New Zealand, Wellington, 1909.

2 William Martin and Eric Skinner, eds, Short History of the Otago Early Settlers' Association 1898-1948 and Guide to the Museum [Dunedin, 1949], p. 8. See also Sinclair, Destiny Apart, p. 39.

3 Alfred Eccles, Records of Early Days: Some Beginnings in Dunedin and Otago [Dunedin, 1929].

4 See, for example, Mrs J. Howard Jackson, Annals of a New Zealand Family: The Household of Gilbert Mair, Early Pioneer, Dunedin, 1935. Jackson was born Laura Mair, a daughter of Gilbert Mair, Senior.

5 Examples include Guy Scholefield's work on Hobson, Eric Ramsden's on Marsden, and James Cowan's on Donald McLean. The imposed loyalty was not unwelcome in any of these cases, however. William Downie Stewart's William Rolleston: A New Zealand Statesman, Christchurch, 1940, was an extreme case. The Rolleston family retained editorial control and stipulated that no one 'should be offended by anything in the book'. Stephanie M. Dale, 'Gentleman of Politics: A Life of William Downie Stewart 1878-1949', MA thesis, University of Otago, 1981, pp. 181-2.

6 Robert Valpy Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland in the Early Days: A Description of the Manner of Life, Trials and Difficulties of Some of the Pioneer Doctors, of the Places in Which, and of the People among Whom They Laboured, Dunedin, 1922.

7 Robert Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago: Being Tales of Times Gone By, Dunedin, 1930.

8 Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. v; Jackson, Annals of a New Zealand Family, p. 13; L. G. D. Acland, The Early Canterbury Runs, 3rd edn, Christchurch, 1946 (first pub. 1930), p. 9.

9 See, for example, Michael Brett, 'Henry Brett', in Claudia Orange, ed., The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 2, Wellington, 1993.

10 Report of Annual General Meeting, 10 July 1918, Wellington Early Settlers' and Historical Association Minute Book, 1912-1921, MSX-3559, ATL

11 Report of Annual General Meeting, 23 June 1920, Wellington Early Settlers' and Historical Association Minute Book, 1912-1921, MSX-3559; Journal of the Early Settlers' and Historical Association of Wellington, 2, 1 (May 1922)-2, 4 (May 1923).

12 Records of the Gore and Surrounding Districts' Early Settlers' Association, vol. 2, Gore, 1933.

13 David G. Roberts, The Wesley Historical Society in Aotearoa/New Zealand: The First Sixty Years, Auckland, 1992, chs 1-2; Peter Lineham, 'Religion', in Colin Davis and Peter Lineham, eds, The Future of the Past: Themes in New Zealand History, Palmerston North, 1991, pp. 7-8.

14 P. J. G. Smith, circular to members of the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Historical Society, 25 July 1929, J. G Andersen Papers, MS Papers 148/22, ATL.

15 Olssen, History of Otago, p. 174; Evening Post, 26 June 1926; Evening Post, 11 May 1931 (reporting on meetings of the Canterbury branch); Auckland Star, 15 September 1934 (reporting on a meeting of the Auckland Historical Society); programmes of the Auckland Historical Society for 1936-7, in G. H. Scholefield Papers, MS Papers 212/37, ATL.

16 Roberts, Wesley Historical Society, p. 33; Keith Sinclair, A History of the University of Auckland 1883–1983, Auckland, 1983, pp. 124-5.

17 For an example of Chappell's Auckland and Methodist history, see his Across a Hundred Years 1841-1941: A Brief Story of the Beginning and Early Progress of Methodism in Auckland, N.Z. [Auckland, 1941].

18 A. B. Chappell, 'MS Notes etc Relating to James Busby', nd [c. 1930-37], NZMS 179, APL. Keith Sinclair, Halfway Round the Harbour: An Autobiography, Auckland, 1993, p. 58, has an amusing anecdote about Chappell's interest in Busby in 1940.

19 Chappell to Horace Fildes, 12 June 1933, Horace Fildes MSS Papers, box 1, VUW; [Chappell,] 'What Is a Capital? Sana of Yemen', undated clipping from unspecified newspaper in Chappell, notebook [c. 1925-35], NZMS 138, APL. This notebook contains many rough notes by Chappell on this subject.

20 Sorrenson, Manifest Duty, pp. 24, 64, 65; Atholl Anderson, Introduction: James Herries Beattie and the 1920 Project, in James Herries Beattie, Traditional Lifeways of the Southern Maori: The Otago University Museum Ethnological Project, 1920, ed. Anderson, Dunedin, 1994, pp. 12, 14. Examples concerning settler history include Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. v; and James Hislop to Johannes Andersen, 2 October 1922, IA1, 113/6, NA.

21 Records of the Gore and Surrounding Districts' Early Settlers' Association, vol. 2, p. 21.

22 'Objects of the Association', Journal of the Early Settlers' and Historical Association of Wellington, 2, 2 (September 1922), p. 28; Martin and Skinner, eds, Short History of the Otago Early Settlers' Association, pp. 11, 32-3.

23 Records of the Gore and Surrounding Districts' Early Settlers' Association, vol. 2, p. 20.

24 William Edward Bidwill and Airini Elizabeth Woodhouse, Bidwill of Pihautea: The Life of Charles Robert Bidwill, Christchurch, 1927, p. vii; A. Selwyn Bruce, The Early Days of Canterbury: A Miscellaneous Collection of Interesting Facts Dealing with The Settlement's First Thirty Years of Colonisation, 1850-1880, Christchurch, 1932, p. 9; Henry Brett and Henry Hook, The Albertlanders: Brave Pioneers of the 'Sixties, Auckland, 1927, p. 6.

25 Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. i. Gilkison echoed the phrase: 'Having praised great men and noble women …' Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago, p. 204.

26 For example, Auckland Provincial Centennial Council, Roll of Early Settlers and Descendants in the Auckland Province Prior to the End of 1852, Auckland, 1940.

27 Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', p. 73.

28 Records of the Gore and Surrounding Districts' Early Settlers' Association, vol. 2, pp. 59-63. See also Bruce, Early Days of Canterbury, ch. 8.

29 Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago, p. 184.

30 Barr, City of Auckland, especially pp. 67-76.

31 Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', p. 66.

32 A. E. Woodhouse, 'Editor's Note' in Woodhouse, ed., Tales of Pioneer Women, Christchurch, 1940, p. xv.

33 Beaglehole, 'New Zealand Scholar', p. 247.

34 Downes, Old Whanganui; Fleming to Scholefield, 23 April 1940, Scholefield Papers, 212/43.

35 Margaret A. McClure, 'On Work: Perceptions of Work in Late Nineteenth Century New Zealand 1870-1900', MLitt thesis, University of Auckland, 1993, ch. 1.

36 Phillips, 'Musings in Maoriland', p. 524. For Australian comparisons, see J. B. Hirst, 'The Pioneer Legend', in John Carroll, ed., Intruders in the Bush: The Australian Quest for Identity, 2nd edn., Melbourne, 1992; Richard White, Inventing Australia: Images and Identity 1688-1980, Sydney, 1981, ch. 6.

37 A. E. Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels and His Brothers, Early Settlers of New Zealand: Particularly the Story of the Founding of the Levels, the First Sheep Station in South Canterbury, Auckland, 1937, p. 93.

38 See, for example, Woodhouse, ed., Tales of Pioneer Women.

39 Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. ii.

40 Woodhouse, 'Editor's Note', in Woodhouse, ed., Tales of Pioneer Women, p. xv; Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. ii.

41 Brett and Hook, Albertlanders, p. 435.

42 The motto of the Otago Early Settlers' Association, which appeared on its publications, was 'Reanimate Otago's Pioneers to Fame Undying through the Years'. One of the stated goals of its Wellington counterpart was To inspire a feeling of veneration for the early colonists, their works and institutions.' 'Objects of the Association', Journal of the Early Settlers' and Historical Association of Wellington, 2, 2 (September 1922), p. 28.

43 Brett and Hook, Albertlanders, p. 5.

44 Martin and Skinner, eds, Short History of the Otago Early Settlers' Association, p. 32; Bidwill and Woodhouse, Bidwill of Pihautea, p. vii; Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. v.

45 Bidwill and Woodhouse, Bidwill of Pihautea, p. vii; Brett and Hook, Albertlanders, p. 435. For an example from religious history, see Chappell, Across a Hundred Years, pp. 2, 59.

46 Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago, p. 204; Sinclair, Destiny Apart, p. 142; Jock Phillips, A Man's Country? The Image of the Pakeha Male—A History, 2nd edn., Auckland, 1996, pp. 145-6, 165-6.

47 On the colonial helpmeet see Raewyn Dalziel, 'The Colonial Helpmeet: Women's Role and the Vote in Nineteenth Century New Zealand', New Zealand Journal of History, 11, 2 (October 1977), pp. 112-23.

48 George Hunter and W. A. Edwards, 'Eighth Annual Report', journal of the Early Settlers' and Historical Association of Wellington, 2, 4 (May 1923), p. 21. A list of members appears on pp. 24-6 of the same issue.

49 Olssen, History of Otago, pp. 177-8.

50 Ibid., p. 174; Sketches from the Life of William Paterson, 27 Years Secretary of the Otago Early Settlers' Association [Dunedin, 1945], pp. 2, 9, 18.

51 'Early Whalers: Centenary of Arrival: Governor-General Unveils Tablet', Otago Witness, 30 November 1931.

52 K. C. McDonald, City of Dunedin: A Century of Civic Enterprise, Dunedin, 1965, p. 346; Olssen, History of Otago, p. 197.

53 McDonald, City of Dunedin, pp. 346-7.

54 Ibid., p. 347.

55 Martin and Skinner, eds, Short History of the Otago Early Settlers' Association, p. 9.

56 Ibid., pp. 9, 17, 19.

57 Alexander Don, Memories of the Golden Road: A History of the Presbyterian Church in Central Otago, Dunedin, 1936, pp. 98-9.

58 Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago, pp. 99-109, especially pp. 106-9.

59 Ibid., pp. 25, 27, 60, 196, 202.

60 Ibid., pp. 45-6.

61 Ibid., ch. 20.

62 Ibid., p. 188.

63 Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. ii.

64 For example, Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland, p. 81.

65 Olssen, History of Otago, p. 174.

66 Helene Mclver, 'Airini Elizabeth Woodhouse (Rhodes)', in Anna Rebecca, ed., Notable South Canterbury Women, Timaru, 1993, pp. 177-8.

67 Woodhouse to Fildes, 15 June 1937, Fildes Papers, box 16.

68 For example, Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, pp. 24-6, 205-6.

69 Ibid., pp. 98-9.

70 Ibid., pp. 28n, 115.

71 A. E. Woodhouse, Guthrie-Smith of Tutira, Christchurch, 1959, p. 203.

72 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, pp. 87, 92.

73 A newspaper editorial used George Rhodes of the Levels to illustrate that '[t]he real interest in the development of a new country must be social and economic' rather than political. Emphasising the importance of detail, the editorial remarked that in George Rhodes of the Levels 'is a quantity of material calculated to throw a clear light on how the land came to be settled, and [on] the enterprises of the pioneers'. 'New Zealand History', Westport Times and Star, 15 June 1937.

74 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, p. 162.

75 Ibid., p. 218.

76 Ibid., p. 210; Mulgan to Scholefield, 20 October 1946, Scholefield Papers, 212/C10.

77 Stevan Eldred-Grigg writes that in the second half of the nineteenth century the Rhodes family 'was almost as rich as a small North Island province, R. H. Rhodes alone being worth over £570,000 at his death in 1884'. Eldred-Grigg, A New History of Canterbury, Dunedin, 1982, p. 53.

78 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, p. 128.

79 Ibid., pp. 1-2.

80 Ibid., pp. 133, 179. See also Woodhouse, 'Some Pages from the Journal of Catherine Orbell, Written on the Ship Mariner, 1849' in Woodhouse, ed., Tales of Pioneer Women, pp. 273n, 280.

81 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, pp. 217-8

82 Ibid., pp. 153-4.

83 Ibid., pp. 57, 126, 156.

84 Ibid., pp. 154, 173.

85 On Woodhouse's own ornithological activities, see her Guthrie-Smith of Tutira, Christchurch, 1959, pp. 193, 197, 200n.

86 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, pp. 204-5.

87 Ibid., p. 43.

88 Ibid., p. 55.

89 Brad Patterson, 'William Barnard Rhodes', in W. H. Oliver, ed., The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 1, Wellington, 1990, p. 362.

90 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, pp. 40-1, 203 (quotation from p. 203).

91 Ibid., p. 134.

92 Ibid., p. 129. Nowhere in the book does George resort to his fists, however.

93 Ibid., p. 175.

94 Ibid., p. 216.

95 Ibid., p. 87.

96 Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', pp. 81-2.

97 Woodhouse, George Rhodes of the Levels, p. 62.

98 Ibid., p. 92.

99 Ibid., p. 88.

100 Ibid., p. 148.

101 Ibid., p. 92.

102 Ibid., p. 87.

103 Ibid., pp. 41-2.

104 Ibid., pp. 88, 91-2.

105 Ibid., pp. 87.

106 Goldie, Fear and Temptation, p. 13.